Sunday, December 21, 2008

Top 5 Christmas Movies of All Time

Christmas movies have become an industry unto themselves. I narrowed the list to five because ten seemed to be stretching it. Although lots of movies take place during the holidays, films like Die Hard and Gremlins hardly epitomize the holiday spirit. However, I did have to leave some good ones off the list, like Scrooged and Miracle on 34th Street. So here are the best, according to me (Sorry Charlie Brown - no Christmas specials).

5. A Christmas Story (1983)
This family classic follows a 9-year old boy (Ralphie) as he desperately tries to convince everyone that he should get a Red Ryder BB gun for Christmas. Ralphie battles playground bullies, imaginary bandits, and the dreaded fear by adults that he will shoot his eye out. Steeped in nostalgic Americana and full of quirky characters, this movie gets funnier with age.

Memorable line: "Only one thing in the world could've dragged me away from the soft glow of electric sex gleaming in the window."

4. Elf (2003)
Will Farrell gives a stand out comedic performance as Buddy, a human raised as an elf in the North Pole, who travels to New York City in search of his real father. Buddy, who exudes Christmas spirit, has difficulty adjusting to the cynical life of the big city. With great performances by the likes of Bob Newhart as Papa Elf and Ed Asner as Santa, Elf has established itself as a Christmas favorite.

Memorable line: "I'm a cotton-headed ninny muggins."

3. A Christmas Carol (1984)
The best adaptation of the Charles Dickens classic, this film features the best ever portrayal of Ebeneezer Scrooge by the great George C. Scott. His cruelty, and later repentence, are truly palpable. I recommend this to anyone who has yet to see it.

Memorable line: "These are garments, Mr. Cratchit. Garments were invented by the human race as a protection against the cold. Once purchased, they may be used indefinitely for the purpose for which they are intended. Coal burns. Coal is momentary and coal is costly. There will be no more coal burned in this office today, is that quite clear, Mr. Cratchit?"

2. National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation (1989)
This movie has become a staple of the holiday season. Chevy Chase is in top form as Clark W. Griswold who wants nothing more than to create the perfect Christmas for his family. He invites all their cranky, oddball relatives to his house. He goes overboard with the Christmas tree and lights. But he is unprepard for the arrival of his cousin Eddie. Unfazed, he continues to labor for a great family holiday, but the result of course, is mayhem.

Memorable line: “Surprised, Eddie? If I woke up tomorrow with my head sewn to the carpet, I wouldn’t be more surprised than I am right now.”

1. It's Wonderful Life (1946)
When events in his life threaten to ruin him, George Bailey begins to see his life as a meaningless failure and considers suicide on Christmas Eve. A guardian angel named Clarence is sent to save him and shows George what his hometown of Bedford Falls would have been like had he never been born. George quickly realizes how his sacrifice and generosity have blessed everyone he knows. In the end, George's family and friends come to his rescue, and he realizes that he truly is a "rich man." This movie is not only the greatest Christmas movie ever, but one the great films of all time. They absolutely do not make them like this anymore.

Memorable Line: "Merry Christmas, movie house! Merry Christmas, Emporium! Merry Christmas, you wonderful old Building and Loan!"

Honorable Mention: The Nativity Story (2006)
I would be remiss if I didn't include one movie about the real meaning of Christmas. It's amazing that it took this long to tell this story on film, and The Nativity Story does not disappoint. It faithfully recounts the accounts of Christ's birth from the gospels of Matthew and Luke without the stiffness and preachiness of a church-produced nativity film. The film centers on the relationship between Joseph and Mary as they try to understand the great task set before them. This is the movie's emotional core and serves to make the story more personal. The Nativity Story is a much needed family movie for this (or any) time of year.


Anonymous said...

Okay, so it looks like you've got the top five, but you got the order wrong. Christmas story is supposed to be No. 2, Elf is supposed to be No. 3, Christmas Vacation is supposed to be No. 4, and Christmas Carol is supposed to be No. 5. And you didn't even give mention to the adaptations of Christmas Carol that include cartoon mice and scottish ducks or muppets and Michael Caine, both of which I prefer.

It's a Wonderful Life was behind Christmas Story for me for years until I had kids, a job, and a mortgage. I like it better now. I really feel for George Bailey when he's freaking out and thinks the world is not worth being part of.

Christmas Story I think suffers from the 24 hour marathon on TNT or TBS or whatever channel it is. You wind up seeing most of it out of order and then don't really feel like you need to sit down and watch the whole thing. I think I'll watch it tonight. I'd also recommend hunting down a copy of Jean Shepherd's book In God We Trust, All Others Pay Cash that has most of the short stories that the movie was based on as well as quite a few others that are just as good.

How can you say that Gremlins doesn't capture the holiday spirit? Or Die Hard? Two lumps of coal for you, my friend. They should be delivered by small demonic-looking beasts which are clearly puppets packing HK submachine guns and yelling "yipee ki-yay!" Ho. Ho. Ho.

I think an honorable mention should go out to Home Alone. I will say that I watched it the other night and I can't believe how disrespectful Kevin is to his mom. At eight years old if I had called my mom "dummy" I'd have been slapped to the floor.

You got enough muse left in you for a top five Christmas specials?


Jake Hammell said...

Home Alone was a pretty good christmas movie. But I agree that Christmas Story should be #2